Stoneygate book a return trip to the cup final

Weekend rugby union preview.
Weekend rugby union preview.
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Stoneygate crossed the M1 on Saturday to face a strong Cosby side on their home ground in what was to be a thrilling President’s Cup semi-final.

The match was a repeat of last season’s final which Stoneygate narrowly won in an evenly and hotly contested encounter.

Cosby started the match the stronger, playing with a slight slope and a gusting wind. The Cosby pack was notably heavier than that of Stoneygate, but what Gate lack in weight, they make up for in fitness and strength.

In the early minutes of the match however, the heavier of the two packs prevailed, forcing their way over the line from a driving maul for the opening score of the game.

In the absence of captain Cillian Brugha through injury, stand-in skipper Matt Isherwood lead Gate to an immediate response.

Playing to their strengths, the visitors used the width of the pitch and shipped the ball out wide to great effect. Instigators of much of Gate’s attacking wide play came from fly-half Luke Sturgess and inside Centre, Joe Murphy; both players playing heads up rugby and creating space for the flyers outside, Bridgwood, Keywood and Storry.

However, it was acting hooker on the day, Tom Charnley who latched on to the wing and put his head down and ran in from almost the half-way line.

For much of the first-half, a similar pattern emerged, Cosby looked to play the ball in the forwards, attacking the fringes and setting up attacking mauls.

In stark contrast, Gate played the expansive form of the game, using the width, keeping the ball out of the contact area and utilising their strengths out wide. All this provided a competitive fixture with both sides trading significant blows. The resulting half-time score saw Cosby take a slight advantage leading 13-10.

In the second period, Gate had use of the slope and the gusty wind, using this to their advantage, Sturgess pinned the ball in to the corners, but credit to Cosby they defended the Stoneygate kicking game well.

The opening blow of the second-half went to the visitors, through winger Jack Storry who used his pace to cross the white-wash and put Gate ahead after Ben Aspell converted, making the score Cosby 13-17 Stoneygate. From there on both sides traded the lead, Cosby scored next to take a one point advantage to which Gate responded with a penalty, kicked by Ben Aspell.

The pattern of the game meant that both sides traded blows right up until the last, Gate finally managed to take a significant nine point advantage when Henry Bridgwood went in under the posts. This try left Cosby two scores behind with only six minutes remaining. Ultimately, Stoneygate hung on for the win, taking their place in the final with a 25-34 win away from home.

Stoneygate will travel to Market Harborough Rugby Club on April 25 to defend their President’s Cup crown. It promises to be a great encounter against either Shepshed or Aylestone Athletic who are playing this coming Saturday.